60-Second Space

Solar Magnetic Field Flip Poses No Problem

The only issue related to the flip of the sun's magnetic field is that it corresponds with the peak of the sunspot cycle, when the sun is prone to launch flares and bursts of plasma into space that can effect satellites and power grids. John Matson reports.

The sun’s magnetic field is about to flip! You may have read reports warning about the effects rippling out through the solar system. But:

“The flip itself is nothing to worry about.” Solar physicist David Hathaway, by phone from his office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The reversal of the sun’s magnetic field is a regular occurrence. The reversal corresponds to the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle, when the sun is prone to launch flares and bursts of plasma into space. But Hathaway says, “This is the smallest sunspot cycle in at least 100 years,” so things should be pretty tame.

“The only thing to worry about is that yea, verily, we’re at sunspot cycle maximum, and with that there is an increased likelihood of space weather events that can influence our assets in space and things here on the ground, in particular power distribution. So there is that to worry about. But I would say that that worry is lessened by the fact that this is a wimpy sunspot cycle.”

—John Matson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]  

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